5,000 farmers send letters to EPA - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

5,000 farmers send letters to EPA

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By: Brittany Paris

Some Nebraska farmers are worried, and they say the rest of the state should be too.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, wants to cut ethanol production by roughly 10 percent.

But that's not sitting well with Nebraska farmers. They sent 5,000 letters to the EPA, asking them to maintain the renewable fuel standard passed in 2007.

"It's just a huge response and it speaks volumes to what is important to Nebraska agriculture," Alan Tiemann, Nebraska Corn Checkoff Board, said.

Earlier in the month, the Nebraska Corn Board sent out letters to the state's farmers, alerting them of the proposed EPA plan.

It would reduce the annual amount of ethanol produced by 1.4 billion gallons.

"It's a 1.2 billion dollar economic impact to the state of Nebraska," Tiemann said. "So it's economically, it's a huge deal. We see it as a real detriment to the ethanol industry and corn products."

The Corn Board says if passed, the proposal will reduce the demand of corn, and result in lost value of corn production. But they say it doesn't stop there. This decision could effect other industries.

"It has a domino effect and I think Nebraska farmers realize that this is an important issue," Don Hutchens, Executive Director of the Nebraska Corn Board, said. "They've worked decades to develop a biofuels industry and then when you're the second largest ethanol-producing state in the nation, we don't want to lose that."

But the EPA says since fuel standards have been set, the fuel economy has improved. Also, next-generation biofuels, like ethanol, have made slow progress.

Supporters for the proposal include the oil and petroleum industries. They say left alone, the mandate could increase costs of food. And they say ethanol isn't as environmentally-friendly as once claimed.

The Corn Board says farmers want to be heard.

"I hope what it really means to EPA is this was not a good decision," Hutchens said.

The EPA is accepting comments on the proposal until January 28. The Corn Board will mail the farmers' letters out on Friday. But it's unknown when a decision will be made.

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